Outside of threatened school closings and major budget cuts, school board meetings don’t typically draw a large crowd. But the audience may get a little bigger in the coming months as public-access stations in Searsport and Belfast begin running taped broadcasts of the meetings.

George Kerper, program manager for Searsport Community Television, started taping the Regional School Unit 20 board at the Oct. 12 meeting held at the district’s central office in Belfast, and plans to begin broadcasting the footage on SCTV cable channel 7. The meetings will run during a weekday 7-10:30 p.m. time slot reserved for government programming, Kerper said.

Belfast Community Television, channel 2 may soon be broadcasting the meetings to Belfast cable subscribers, according to station Director Ned Lightner, who said he would likely schedule the RSU 20 videos to air at 8 p.m. on the Thursday following the board’s bi-monthly meetings. The board meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

Because of the limited range of cable television service in Waldo County — public-access channels are part of an agreement between municipalities and cable companies and are not included in satellite television packages — the televised coverage will only reach a fraction the district’s residents. Even within Belfast and Searsport cable access is limited by a lack of infrastructure.

Kerper said Searsport is in the process of renegotiating its cable franchise agreement with Time Warner, which he hopes will include some expansion of the cable provider’s service area in Searsport.

In the meantime, he is posting the videos to the Web site Vimeo.com, where they can be viewed by anyone with a computer and an Internet connection — a potential boon to the majority of towns in the district, where residents don’t have access to cable.

As to how the board will conduct itself with the cameras rolling, it remains to be seen. Much has been made of the effect of television cameras on governmental proceedings, but the board members who responded to a request for comment were optimistic about having the meetings televised.

Debora Riley of Northport responded by e-mail that she believed the presence of a camera at the Oct. 12 meeting led some board members to conduct themselves in a more positive and respectful manner than she was used to.

“With this result, I embrace continuing to tape and broadcast the board meetings, Also, it keeps the public informed about board activity, and I think that’s an excellent outcome,” she said.

Northport residents won’t be able to watch the broadcasts on television, but Riley said the venture was still worthwhile, since it got the information out to residents of Belfast and Searsport.

Searsport representative Darren Philbrick echoed Riley’s thoughts on keeping the public informed. “It is very important for the public to see where their money goes, especially today,” he commented by e-mail.

Orya Shomron, one of six Belfast representatives on the RSU 20 board, said the broadcasts were a way for busy parents who are unable to attend the meetings to stay informed.

“Anytime there is transparency, it’s a good thing,” he said. “I wish it had happened sooner; it’s a valuable addition to the public record.”